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Scenes from the Political Playground: An Analysis of the Symbolic Use of Children in Presidential Campaign Advertising

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There is a growing tendency for political rhetoric in the United States to refer to the needs of children. This study examined a sample of political advertisements produced by the two major parties from 1952 to the present. Analysis of visual images in the ads is used as a foundation for understanding children's symbolic functions in political rhetoric. The ways children are used symbolically in conjunction with certain issues can be divided into at least five major categories: economic insecurity, poverty, crime, war, and hope for the future. The analysis reveals that images of children in poverty are found predominantly in political spots of the 1960s, while appeals to economic insecurity are used consistently over time. Historical factors also affect the symbolic use of children in the context of crime, war, and hope for the future.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 January 1999

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